« June 2007 Table of Contents
Point of View: Sustainability requires industry action
By Mike Boots
June 01, 2007
When it comes to the issue of global sustainable seafood,
this industry finds itself at a significant turning point.
There is a growing trend worldwide toward seafood
sustainability, and companies are beginning to notice and take
We've certainly seen more energy directed at this issue in
the last couple of years. The seriousness of sustainability is
hitting home and we are seeing an increasingly united front by
industry, scientists, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and
consumers to turn the tide. We can achieve a turnaround, but we
need the movement to extend to all stakeholders and all
behaviors, not just locally but internationally.
Most of the focus has been on wild fisheries, but we also
have to address challenging questions about farmed fish. There
can be little doubt that farmed fish will play an important
role in a sustainable marketplace. But the aquaculture industry
will likely experience some uncomfortable change before a
clean, economic and fair industry evolves.
We need to ask ourselves, what is the goal? Is it healthier
fish populations, or ecosystems? And what about fossil fuels
used by trawlers and processors, or the distance "sustainable"
fish is transported? The questions are endless, because, of
course, regional economies are inextricably linked.
Seafood is particularly complex because of its exceptional
international activity. This is good news, for it means that
individual corporate actions, no matter how large or small, can
create a ripple effect of positive change across the supply
chain. Here are three ways you can incorporate conservation
into your business:
1. Engage yourself, your employees and other players in the
supply chain. Know where to get information and how to
distribute/communicate it, and keep it up to date. Very likely,
this means exploring sources outside your traditional
2. Step back from your operation and benchmark your
products. What immediate positive action can be taken? What
medium and longer-term change can be s t arted? Start small,
then expand on that initial action.
3. Set sustainability goals and a realistic time frame to
succeed. Be clear from the outset what you want to achieve and
the likely impacts that goal will have on both your business
and your supply chains. To achieve real buy-in and change,
invite employees and other stakeholders to collaborate and
participate in the change process with you.
Seeing green and staying in the black means ensuring a
lasting and diverse supply of seafood and a robust marine
environment. It's everyone's responsibility, but it goes beyond
the steps an individual company can take.
What the seafood industry really needs is not marketing
councils, but action councils - individuals and companies
coming together to provide the necessary incentives to make
meaningful change. It is no longer enough to decide which
products to buy; we also need to invest in improving their
capture, production and transport.
Mike Boots is director of the Seafood Choices Alliance, a
global association for sustainable seafood, online at